Checkpoint inhibitors and their role in the Immune-Image project
The immune system is our body’s natural defense mechanism against diseases, including cancer. It has evolved to recognize and eliminate abnormal cells before they can cause harm. However, cancer cells often find ways to evade the immune system’s attacks, allowing them to grow and distribute over the body. Checkpoint inhibitors are a class of drugs that can help the immune system by activating immune cells such as T cells to attack cancer cells. In this blog post, we will explore the role of checkpoint inhibitors in the Immune-Image project.
How do checkpoint inhibitors work?
Checkpoint inhibitors work by blocking certain proteins (immune checkpoints) on the surface of immune cells, such as T cells, that normally prevent them from attacking healthy cells in the body. One such protein is called PD-1 (Programmed cell death protein 1). Cancer cells can produce a protein called PD-L1 (programmed cell death-ligand 1) that binds to PD-1 on T cells, preventing them from attacking the cancer cells. Checkpoint inhibitors such as the antibodies Pembrolizumab and Nivolumab block PD-1, allowing T cells to attack cancer cells more effectively.
About the Immune-Image project
The Immune-Image project aims to use imaging techniques to track immune cells, including T cells in the body. By doing so, researchers hope to better understand how the immune system interacts with cancer cells and how to improve cancer treatments. Checkpoint inhibitors are a promising tool in this effort, as they can activate T cells.
Different types of imaging techniques
One imaging technique that may be used in the Immune-Image project is positron emission tomography (PET). PET uses a radioactive tracer that is taken up by cells in the body. When the tracer decays, it emits a positron that collides with an electron, producing two gamma rays that are detected by a PET scanner. This produces a 3D image of the tracer distribution in the body. By using a tracer that specifically targets T cells, such as the CD8 tracer discussed in a previous blog post, researchers could use PET to track the movement of T cells in response to checkpoint inhibitor treatment.
Another imaging technique that may be used in the Immune-Image project is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body. By using a contrast agent that specifically targets T cells, researchers could use MRI to track T cell infiltration into tumors and other tissues.
In summary, checkpoint inhibitors are a promising tool in the Immune-Image project, as they can activate T cells and make them more visible to imaging techniques such as PET and MRI. By using these techniques to track T cell activity in response to checkpoint inhibitor treatment, researchers hope to better understand how the immune system interacts with cancer cells and how to predict immunotherapy response.
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